Monday, July 2, 2012

Computers identify tech trends

One of the biggest tasks of any senior manager is to identify new trends in technology and take advantage of that knowledge to develop new products before his competition.

Traditionally, most folks have performed this task in a variety of ways -- by attending technical conferences and seminars, visiting trade shows and yes, even reading technical trade magazines such as Vision Systems Design.

But the trouble with all these approaches is that they require a great deal of time consuming and exhaustive human effort. What makes things worse is that since no-one can claim to be a font of all knowledge, oftentimes the technologies that may appear new to one individual might actually be years old.

Now, however, it looks as though it might be possible to employ the use of computer systems to help alleviate the drudgery of such research. At least, that's what the folks at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY, USA)  believe they might be able to do.

That's right. The scientists there have begun work on a new Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) project to develop computer systems that can help quickly identify emerging ideas and capabilities in technology.

The research is part of the IARPA Foresight and Understanding from Scientific Exposition (FUSE) program under a team led by BAE Systems that includes Brandeis University, New York University, 1790 Analytics, and Rensselaer.

The computer and web scientists at Rensselaer -- led by Professor Deborah McGuinness --- will work with the FUSE team to develop computer programs that will analyze millions of pages of text looking for the emergence of new technological and scientific trends in multiple languages.

"No one can keep up with the massive amount of data currently out there even in one language, let alone in many different languages," McGuinness said in a recent statement.

"(The project) will allow us to look at a far greater number of documents in less time to understand the significant trends that are out there. Once identified, these trends can then be better studied by human analysts."

While this work is admirable, I'd like to suggest that the good folks at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) might also like to sponsor another group of software developers to create a computer program that could analyze the technical specifications, price and performance of products and correlate those characteristics with how successful they have been in the market.

I think that this would provide a terrifically important tool to many individuals -- especially those in the vision industry -- who might then be able to make more informed decisions about what products to launch into the market.

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